SIX FIGURE RATES DEBT: Nearly 100 Gympie homes owe council
GYMPIE Regional Council has revealed it is owed almost $1 million in unpaid rates from 93 properties, including houses, rentals, farms and commercial buildings.
The lion's share of the debt is from 48 "owner occupied dwellings” owing a cumulative total of $513,659.66, with another $206,537.73 owed from 15 investment dwellings and $121,361.11 on unpaid rates from 24 vacant blocks of land.
A further $14,522.76 is owed from three farming properties.
A council spokeswoman said the individual outstanding balances ranged from $4000 up to $69,000.
"Council may resolve to send 'near sale' letters to the 48 property owners instead of moving forward with immediate sale action - this would allow the ratepayers to apply for early release of superannuation, or the State Government mortgage relief loan to pay their balance in full,” she said.
"Both of these forms of assistance are not approved until the ratepayer is in threat of losing their home, so these ratepayers have not yet been able to access this assistance.
"In 2016, council issued a high number of these letters instead of taking legal sale action to allow ratepayers the chance to pay in full using these options and this proved to be quite successful.”
The spokeswoman said all decisions on selling houses in arrears were made by the council and not council officers, with councillors "(making) the decision based on each individual case with consideration to individual circumstances”.
"Any outstanding balances, which have not received payment for a minimum of three years will be taken to a Gympie Regional Council ordinary meeting for discussion and outcome. The discussion will be held in-committee due to the privacy laws.
"It should also be noted, each property owner has been offered assistance within the three year time period.”
The council would not disclose which local suburbs had the highest amount of rates owed, citing privacy laws. The spokeswoman said the council would give at least three months notice by registered post to owing property owners, with the sale of property within six months as per Local Government Legislation.
"Every effort is made to work with the owner/resident to put a payment plan in place, to avoid any further action,” she said.
"Council encourages any resident who are experiencing financial difficulties to contact Council to discuss the options available.”